The Strife of Praise; a Pastoral.

The News (1 September 1805).

Leigh Hunt

A burlesque singing contest signed "L. H. T. B." The first pair of initials are those of Leigh Hunt, whose brother was the editor of The News; the latter is possibly that of Thomas Barnes, who had been Hunt's schoolmate at Christ's Hospital. The singers are a pair of brickmakers and the humor (such as it is) derives from the low associations of the imagery: "O CLOD, alas, rest on these eyes hath hung ill, | Since first I saw GRUBBINDA on the dunghill! | White as a turnip is her lovely jowl, | Her voice melodious as wheelbarrow's roll." The "Strife of Praise" is a late contribution to the series of eighteenth century pastorals concerned with trades and professions. The poem is prefaced by a long headnote in the Scriblerlian manner imitating the preface to Gay's Shepherd's Week, which imitates E. K.'s annotations to the Shepheardes Calender. It alludes to Jonathan Swift's "A Pastoral Dialogue," first published in Miscellanies. The Third Volume (1732) and to Capel Lofft's patronage of Robert Bloomfield.

The News had been founded in May 1805 by John Hunt; "L. H." was a frequent contributor of verse to the early numbers of this weekly newspaper.

Thickandthinnus Scriblerus to the Reader: "Courteous Reader, Peradventure some ill judging persons may foster an erroneous opinion of the following poem, and regard it as the contemning that natural species of writing, the modern pastoral. But if thou perusest it aright and with a cool and studious gravity, so far from marvelling at its meaning, thou wilt discover it to be no other than the veritable kind of pastoral which hath been ennobled by the chaunting of THEOCRITUS and VIRGIL. The lights to this discovery I will briefly trim. It hath been said by a great poet, that simplicity, brevity, and delicacy, are the three most desirable properties of the pastoral; and I do entirely accord with him therein; nay I opine, that they are as inseparable from it, as impudence from a knave in office, or dramatic dullness from Mr. P—. H—. Now in the first place, the simplicity of this effusion is so self evident, that I will positively affirm, its enemies will be the first to acknowledge it. Secondly, thou wilt perceive, that its style must inevitably beget a spirit of brevity, seeing that the interlocutors are allowed no further than a quatrain each at a time to reveal their most passionate cogitations: furthermore this brevity exhibiteth itself in the comparisons, which are the very reverse of what the vivacious M. PERRAULT calls comparisons 'a la longue queue,' or similies with a long tail. But upon its delicacy the authors, ever attentive to that nice propriety of thought which distinguish true genius, may manifestly exalt themselves: if in this matter they yield to any renowned writer, certes it can be to none other than the Reverend DEAN of SAINT PATRICK'S, who in his pastoral of Dermot and Shelah, hath indubitably displayed a striking delicacy of idea, and who of all geniuses must be allowed to have possessed the choicest gathering together of phrases and an imagination, modest even to bashfulness.

"Vehement would be my affliction, gentle reader, shouldst thou conceive with diverse simpletons to whom the manuscript hath been rashly revealed, that in this amatory conference ought is intended to cast unworthy and profane revilement on the divine sympathies of Love. Marvellous is the veneration and respectful extacy with which the authors contemplate the fairer moiety of the creation, delighting, as becometh their virility, to shew all pleasant gratitude to those from whom pleasure so abundantly springeth. Verily the poets have from time immemorial been deemed the most active worshippers of Love, and rightly have they been deemed, for albeit they may not light upon female object to adore, doubtless thou wilt always find them to be in love with themselves.

"Thus critical have I been touching these pithy rhymes, that thou mightest comprehend the seriousness of the poesy with a right understanding, and not stare on it with a marvellous and ignorant surprise, as many a wight hath stared upon the newly erected eminence on Saint Anne her church in Soho, doubtful whether a steeple or a brick-kiln presenteth itself to his vision. Two farther reasons exist also for these mine animadversions; one, modestly convincing, the other, exemplificatorily apologetical; the first is simply, that they are mine own, an argument of potent conclusion with all critics from Zoilus, who would rashly have puffed down great poets, to Mr. C—l L—t, who notably puffeth up little ones. Of the second, quaint is the logic: better truly is he prepared to combat the foe, who hath timely notice of hostile approach; nay, if fear seizeth his nerves, he may betake himself to running, contrarily to what that merry knave PETER PINDAR affirmeth, viz. 'Necessitas non habet legs;' forasmuch therefore as I have prepared thee for the perusal of the rhymes, doubtless if thou likest not their looks, thou mayest turn thy visage elsewhere and avoid that which tickleth not thy conceit. Thine in all meekness, THICKANDTHINNUS SCRIBLERUS."

In Clapton fields, where muddy streamlets sleep,
And well-turn'd bricks a soothing clatter keep,
Where the flam'd pile sulphureous fragrance flings,
And amorous bullocks roar seducing things,
Two young brickmakers, soft as their own sod,
This PUDDLE nam'd, and that hight graceful Clod;
As on the ground they munch'd their bread and cheese,
Thus pour'd their warblings to the grumbling breeze:

O CLOD, alas, rest on these eyes hath hung ill,
Since first I saw GRUBBINDA on the dunghill!
White as a turnip is her lovely jowl,
Her voice melodious as wheelbarrow's roll.

How in my heart has Cupid struck his knife,
Since first I sought fair THUMPSKA for my wife!
THUMPSKA, whose skin a mutton's fat surpasses,
Whose voice the coughing of ten dying asses.

Nor coals, nor soot, the chimney's side which dyes,
Are half so sable as GRUBBINDA'S eyes;
Like bricks fresh burnt her cheeks warm doings tell,
And her blue nose snores like a passing bell.

Ye soft-eyed shoeblacks, hide your easy blushes;
My THUMPSKA'S eyes will shame your brightest brushes;
Her cheeks divinely as raw rumpsteaks glisten,
And for her nose! Lord help their sleep who listen!

GRUBBINDA'S looks, whene'er I kiss and court her,
Are sweet as froth upon a pot of porter;
So smiles the boar, when post rubs down his bristles,
So smiles the gallant jackass munching thistles.

Plump THUMPSKA'S smiles, which not for world's I'd swop,
Shine like the sun in tallow-chandler's shop:
So shines the bargeman tugging 'gainst a raw gust,
So after meals the alderman in August.

As my GRUBBINDA yesterday was l aid
Beneath the umbrageous shadow of the shade,
I kiss'd her sweet lips smoother than five saws,
When she with softness cried, "O split your jaws!"

On a soft heap of brickbats was reclin'd
My THUMPSKA, singing sweet as the north wind;
Her full-blown lips with many a smack I press'd,
She kick'd, and cried most sweet "Ha' done, you beast."

But see! The red-nos'd sun has gone to sleep,
And new-made bricks his sad departure weep:
'Tis time to lead the blind mares from the trough,
Lest we and they should catch a dreadful cough.

A huge good sentiment! — Now in straw beds
We'll rest the leaden glory of our heads;
Then dream our sweethearts to our arms have flown,
Till Phoebus bids us put our breeches on
(Exeunt yawning and scratching their heads.)